- Coping With Having to Say Goodbye Again and Again
- Losing Romantic Feelings for Your Partner
- Phone Conversations
- Being Tempted to Give Up on Your Relationship
- Emotional Stages in a Long-Distance Relationship
- Growing While Apart and Getting Reacquainted
- Trusting Your Partner When They Are Away
- Signs That a Long-Distance Relationship Is Ending
- Long-Distance Sex
I start crying as the airplane
moves away from the terminal. Wiping a tear, I recall what a
wonderful time that I have just spent with my girlfriend. The
picture is so vivid that I can feel her in my arms, hear her
whisper in my ear, and taste her lips tenderly pressed against
mine. My heart fills with the emotions that we share when we are
together . . . laughing, talking, making love.
Suddenly the roar of an airplane distracts me.
Realizing that my feelings are nothing more than a daydream, and
that my girlfriend is on a flight traveling thousands of miles
away from me, I start crying again. As her plane ascends, I am
reminded that I will not see her for several weeks or even
months, and that when we do meet again, it may be only for a
few days. Now I feel angry, wondering why she cannot be beside
me all the time. Why must I endure an emotional roller coaster
every time I step into an airport? I start blaming myself for
ever being in such a relationship. Then, as I watch her plane
being consumed by an afternoon sunset, the vision returns of the
wonderful time we have just spent together and how much we love
each other. At once, everything seems worthwhile and the only
thing that matters is rushing home to wait by the phone for her
call. Turning to leave the terminal, I try to conceal my tears
from curious strangers. I know that they do not know me but in
some odd way, they understand.
Does this sound familiar? If not, substitute the
word "boyfriend," "wife," or "husband" for "girlfriend." If this
still doesn't sound familiar, replace the word "train"
for" airplane." How's that? More familiar? If so, you are
probably in a long-distance relationship. You deeply love
someone, but for some reason you must be apart from them for an
extended period. Maybe you chose to attend university in a
different country than your partner. Perhaps they accepted a job
in another city because the same opportunity did not exist in
the city in which you live. What if you just want to live in
another country for a year or two to expand your
You know that you love your partner and that both
of you will grow more by being apart temporarily. Yet your
heart feels like it is breaking and you wonder how you are
ever going to survive being alone without losing your mind. I
know the feeling. As I write this book, I face two more years of
separation from my girlfriend, Amanda. We both love each other
deeply, but because she could not find a local university that
offered a graduate degree in her field of interest, we both
agreed that she should study in another city--1500 miles away.
This was the right choice, because I know her education will
make her feel more secure and fulfilled. At the same time, I
also realize that I am going to miss her terribly.
This is my third serious long-distance
relationship so I know what to expect. Despite how much I love
Amanda, I can expect to feel lonely. I can expect the only real
contact I will have with her will be a daily ten or twenty
minute conversation on the phone. I also can expect that
when I am down, certain people or even my own imagination
will try to sabotage my faith in my relationship.
Realizing that I must be apart from Amanda and
knowing what to expect in her absence, I can spend my time in two
ways. I can wallow in self-pity and let every challenge that
arises while she is gone get me down. Or I can focus on how
happy I am that she is enriching herself, trying my best to
anticipate and overcome the challenges that distance will create
in our relationship.
As you might have guessed, I chose the latter.
Unlike my past two long-distance relationships, I am committed to
being happy while we are apart. However, I realize that
commitment is only the start. If I want to be truly happy, I
must anticipate the challenges in my relationship, and decide
how to meet them with a positive emotional and mental spirit.
In the following pages you will find some stories
that illustrate the obstacles that I faced being apart from a
loved one. You will also find several insights describing some
simple things that I did to overcome those difficulties. Please
know that they are not cure-alls for the problems in every
relationship, close or long-distance. They are simply what
helps me from going completely insane from missing Amanda. I
know you don't know me personally, but please trust that I am
trying to do all that I can to be happier while being apart from
her. After all, you can try a lot of things in two years if you
put your mind to it.
As you read this book, I hope that you will feel
like you are having a conversation with a friend. A friend who
is in a long-distance relationship and wants to share his
feelings on how he did his best to be happy for twenty-four
months while being apart from the woman he loves. I also hope
that this book comforts you. I hope it reassures you that you
aren't alone, and that people everywhere are experiencing the
same emotions you are. Long-distance isn't the end of the
world, and if you have the desire, you can be just as
happy apart from your loved one as when you are together. If your
loved one is like my girlfriend, I know that they would
feel better knowing that you are happy while they're away. Even
if you aren't in a long-distance relationship, chances are
that you know someone who is, and may be looking for some
support. Whatever your reason for reading this book, I offer
you some stories and insights that if only to dry your eyes
for an hour or two, were worth sharing.
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Coping With Having to Say Goodbye Again and Again
It never fails. A week or two before Amanda goes back to
university, a mysterious anxiety seems to surround our every
move. We both know our time together was beautiful. We took
long walks together, visited each other's family, and talked
about how wonderful it will be when we are finally together-
-permanently. Nevertheless, two weeks before she plans to
leave, we feel tense. Unlike the beginning of her stay, we
feel an invisible wall coming between us. The smallest things,
like what courses she will be taking, turn into disagreements.
Although we cannot control our emotions, we realize that we are
wasting the precious little time that we have left together.
If you are in, or have been in a long-distance relationship, you
probably know exactly what I am talking about. If you have
endured countless goodbyes, you probably realize that the
feelings you experience before your loved one leaves, arise
from you anticipating how much it will hurt once they go.
Whether I like it or not, about two weeks before Amanda departs,
I cannot help thinking about how sad I am going to feel in the
airport kissing her for the last time. Or how lonely I am going
to feel on the weekend when I realize that our only time together
will be a short phone conversation. Or how her leaving this
time may mean the end of our relationship.
I don't even want to think of the time I have wasted in the past,
feeling upset about a girlfriend leaving town. No matter how
much I prepared for those troubling thoughts and feelings, I
knew they would come. I would let my emotions consume me and
spoil the time we had left. Looking back, I think I enjoyed
feeling upset . . . in a warped sort of way. I felt entitled
to feel bad, and would deliberately upset my girlfriend as a
reward to myself for what I would have to endure in a few weeks.
It's crazy what the mind and heart will do if you let them!
About a month ago, before Amanda left town we committed to
make her last two weeks just as special as her first two (though
we are true believers in letting emotions take their course).
I am proud to say the experiment worked! For the first time in
my life, I experienced very little anxiety in the time before her
departure. I didn't even feel crushed at the airport. We both
felt calm and secure in her leaving, and we avoided putting any
emotional walls between us to insulate ourselves from being hurt.
Sound interesting? Here's how we did it.
We found a good way to feel more secure was to make some
long-term plans. We didn't sit and plan in detail what we were
going to do with the rest of our lives. I think that's unrealistic
and would be a waste of time in our last two weeks together.
What we did do, was talk about when we would be together
next, how long her stay would be at her university, and what
we planned to do when she returned.
We, of course, knew all of this before she left. The goal in
talking about our future, however, wasn't to make new plans,
but to give each other the feeling that despite the time we
had to be apart, we would eventually be together. After talking
about how wonderful our future was going to be, a short term
absence from each other seemed insignificant by comparison.
All that mattered was being together again as soon as possible.
How or when we would be together was not an issue. We both
knew we had to make it, or the hope of being together permanently
would be lost.
No matter how strong our relationship is, I eventually hear
about another long-distance relationship that has failed and I
wonder if we will suffer the same fate. The last time I heard
one of these stories was from Amanda a few weeks before she left
town. At a dinner one night, she described how a guy she knew
had a girlfriend who went to Russia on an exchange program. They
had gone out for several years and were planning to be married.
Yet only weeks before she was to return home, she called her
boyfriend and informed him that she had met someone else, she was
staying away longer than anticipated, and that her plans for marrying
him were over. Right out of the blue. Wham! Just when he was
looking forward to picking her up from the airport in a few weeks.
Anyway, given that Amanda was leaving shortly, she and I could
have used this story as a perfect opportunity to start doubting our
own relationship by asking those dreaded "yes, but what if . . .
" questions. Instead, we used the story as an opportunity to reassure
each other of what wouldn't happen in our relationship and how much
we loved each other. We used the story as an example of what not to
do, pledging never to let the same thing happen to us. We both came to
the conclusion that this couple shared problems that had nothing to do
with long-distance. They had problems such as a lack of commitment and
trust that we didn't have, and would never contemplate having. After
our conversation ended, we both felt stronger and reassured, knowing
that we loved each other and were committed to our relationship . . .
no matter what. This was a tremendous feeling of love and security to
share with each other before she left town.
If I know Amanda is leaving in a couple of weeks I will change my
schedule so I can spend more time with her. It's a natural response
when you love someone and enjoy being around them as much as possible.
Nevertheless, what I have found is that altering my routine significantly
triggers something inside me that says Amanda is going and I should feel
bad. When I keep different work hours, or see her at different times
than I normally would, I start feeling like something is wrong. I feel
like it is the beginning of a cycle that will end in hurt and unhappiness.
I am not saying that one should not spend more time with their loved one
before they leave town, but I have found that it is better not to alter
my day drastically before Amanda leaves. The last time she departed, in
the preceding weeks I tried to do everything I would do normally as if she
wasn't going away. I didn't change my weekly work hours, daily workout
routine, etc. I did, however, spend more time with her Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday, the days when we would usually spend the most time together
during the week if she wasn't leaving.
The result was I did not feel any different in the two weeks before
her departure than I did the other four months that we were together.
After all, nothing in my daily routine suggested that she was leaving.
We both just went about our lives as usual, and as a result we encouraged
no feelings of change or impending doom. I would not have believed it
myself if someone told me just to act the same as I usually did before
Amanda left. I always considered those two or three weeks as a necessary
ritual in which I had to change everything and spend as much time with
her as possible, trying desperately to absorb as much intimacy and physical
contact as I could. I was wrong. What I never realized was that the
more my routine changed, the more my feelings did as well. So instead
of changing my daily patterns, I will now keep the same routine just
before Amanda's departure, along with the same feelings I have for her
while we are together the other 99% of the time.
It took me years to learn, but I finally realized it's better not to see
a girlfriend just before she leaves town. In other words, I do not
say goodbye at the airport anymore. Now before you condemn me
for being an unfeeling monster, ask yourself this question: "What
happens just before your lover leaves?" From experience, my guess
is that you probably feel terrible. No matter what you have tried
to do in the weeks leading up to your partner's departure, you just
can't help feeling this is the last time you will see your loved one
for who knows how long. Consequently, you both cry uncontrollably.
You start holding and kissing each other like you will never see each
other again. You pledge that you will always love each other, and that
you will never forget to call or write. Perhaps you exchange gifts,
making the moment even more emotional and intense. You both try to
ignore the loud speaker announcing that your lover's plane or train
leaves in ten minutes. Finally, you realize that you can be together
no longer. Using all of the strength left in your body, you give each
other one last kiss, then say goodbye. You both start crying again as
your lover walks away. You keep waving, but soon you cannot see each
other anymore. You turn and leave the airport crying. You realize
that no matter how hard you try, you probably will have a bad day and
get nothing done.
One can look at last minute goodbyes from a different perspective. For
example, in my first serious long-distance relationship, I believed that
if I really loved my girlfriend, I had to endure massive suffering every time
she left the city. Not to see her at the last minute of her departure would
be like cheating both of us out of the one, final emotional moment that we
had left together. If I did not see her off, I risked losing this moment
with her forever. Worse, she might not love me any more if I missed her at
the airport. I knew I would feel terrible when she left, but compared with
the risk and the guilt associated with not seeing her off, the pain of saying
goodbye was worth it.
I might have maintained this perspective if farewells only occurred once
in awhile, but they didn't. Saying goodbye happened every couple of
months, and by the twentieth or so parting, I began to question whether
seeing my girlfriend off at the airport was really worth the pain. I
started to ask myself what would happen if we didn't see each other for
that last hour. Would we love each other any less? Would we feel
cheated? Would guilt consume us until we saw each other the next time?
As it turns out, none of those things occurred the first time I avoided
the airport. In fact, instead of feeling cheated or guilty, we both felt
relieved that we could still love each other without having a nervous
breakdown every time she left town.
I still avoid the airport in my current relationship. Instead of crying
and clinging to each other while the last few minutes tick away on the
terminal's clock, Amanda and I prefer to say goodbye the night before
she leaves, in an intimate, stress-free environment. For example, we
will usually go out for dinner and then come back home and hold each
other by the fireplace before saying goodbye. The next day, she
usually gets a ride to the airport from her parents instead of from me.
Call me unfeeling, but I prefer to say goodbye to her alone, in front
of a fireplace in the evening, than at 6:30 a.m. in a public airport,
among other couples who are crying while a loud speaker announces the
time when they must leave each other again. Unlike my first long-distance
relationship, I now associate saying goodbye with intimate, loving evenings,
instead of crying at airports and feeling miserable. What a wonderful
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